Being curious – about everything!

ArtsAndScience

An inspiration like no other… discern patterns where you never expect…

Having read many biographies and memoirs of successful business leaders, I started to feel that even though each journey was unique and distinct, their experiences, learning and even their approaches were often very similar… but the story of Leonardo da Vinci is an experience on a different plane… and its an experience worth going through.

Of-course I may be biased – with my own interest in seemingly disjoint disciplines (e.g. technology, neuroscience, psychology, design etc.), and my firm belief that bringing together ideas from different spheres not just adds a different perspective to thinking but also allows for innovation in unforeseen areas, I see here a perfect example… an example beyond my wildest imagination.

I have always known that Leonardo da Vinci was not just a painter but his interests and explorations spanned many areas beyond painting and sculpture and included interesting explorations in science and engineering (having earlier read about his flying machine and his (failed) attempts of flying like a bird, his many drawings of machines, etc.)… but I wasn’t much aware of his vast experiments in anatomy, geometry, hydraulics, geology, botany, fossils and fossil traces, birds, weaponry, waterways, bridges, architecture or theatre (there seems hardly a subject he did not study)… nor did I ever appreciate the extent of his study of nature and science…

But what intrigued me the most is that it’s not superhuman powers or divine endowments that make him so special, but his unquenchable curiosity and his obsessive passion, often coupled with inventive imaginationsimple skills that all of us have access to – if only we make an effort

What sets him apart is his ability to discern patterns not just from nature and apply them to science, but also to take his findings from experiments in science and applying them to arts… there are so many examples – from using the observations from water and fluid dynamics and applying them to figure out how the heart valve works or the blood flows in our bodies… from understanding the optics of light and reflections to functioning of the human eye to bring realism in his paintings…. from observing the structure of the wings of birds to design machines for flying… from using perspectives in landscapes to bring flat images to life… and many many-others… each of these correlations were arrived at only after hours and hours of obsessive study and often wild experimentation – an inspiration to all of us to pursue our interests with obsessive passion… his approach reflects his thinking of not accepting received wisdom but supplementing it by his own studies and carefully designed experiences – a lesson that we can all learn from.

I will admit that I have occasionally prided myself on being a successful proponent of driving innovation by bringing together ideas from different disciplines, but I now realise that my many attempts have not even scratched the surface – I cannot even fathom going to the extent that Leonardo da Vinci did – using anatomical studies and hours of hands on dissection to observe the muscles that move the lips and applying that learning to paint the memorable Mona Lisa smile! Not just unbelievable but amazing… I wish I could develop such a level of acute observation, obsessive study and experimentation, indefatigable curiosity and an unnatural degree of imagination

And if I can take one thing away from reading about his life, his pursuits, his passions and his approach, then I would like to slow down, and start looking at everything around me with new eyes, and maybe even stop awhile to cherish the infinite wonders around me – for if I do that I will also start seeing many more patterns and correlations that I overlook today…

I would highly recommend reading his biography, for it is not just an insight into Leonardo da Vinci, but his life is an inspiration like no otherit opens the mind to possibilities that most of us have long forgotten in our single-minded quest for ‘getting it done’

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

This article was first published @LinkedIn on March 6, 2018.

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[Unlearning] When Social Entrepreneurship took a new meaning for me…

 

social entrepreneurship - new meaning

Early in the year, I read a book that chronicled the journey of the Tatas and while the many stories bring out practical business insights, I was particularly fascinated by Jamsetji Tata’s perspective on serving the interests of the country…

I have personally always been fascinated by what Jamsetji Tata (regarded by many as the father of Indian Industry) transpired to achieve (back in the 19th century, in 1868) and it’s amazing to see the disruptions he created… here we struggle to bring small changes whereas he opened up new worlds – in areas that were varied but still key to the growth of modern India – from industrial development (steal and hydro-electric power) to research (and technical education) to social welfare… he’s an inspiration… not just to lead in ideas and action but even more so to have the courage and conviction to take with you those who do not yet share your vision…

What stands out for me is his guiding principle that no success or achievement is worthwhile unless it serves the interests or needs of the country and its people… and the endeavour to create wealth for the nation! And it’s amazing to see how the foundation laid by Jamsetji Tata has stood the test of time and allowed the group to grow, maintaining its values and continuing to diversify to meet emerging India’s needs…

Everyone dreams of creating wealth for themselves but sustaining the passion to look beyond and striving to take the country forward is an inspiration… and Jamsetji’s journey is a reminder that one man’s vision can change not just a few lives, but a country!

As I started to accept that each one of us has the power to achieve more than we think, I was even more intrigued by Jamsetji’s approach to serving the needs of the country. His belief – that what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and the most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country – is so different from common thinking and most philanthropic initiatives of feeding the poor and healing the sick – and probably why he has left an indelible mark on India and its people – not just over a few years but across centuries.
This is a new way of looking at social entrepreneurship for me. While my passion has been to apply technology advancements for social impact – I cannot deny that my focus has been to look at selective pockets of social and economic change – and now it seems that I may be missing countless opportunities for a bigger impact.

I have something to think about as I start the new year – and as a first step maybe to evolve the infrastructure, services or ecosystems – not just to meet the basic needs of the moderate or the ordinary – but to relook from a different angle and extend the platforms with new capabilities to support the best and drive them towards their potential… yes, I really believe that this approach has far reaching possibilities – beyond social impact to also business impact!

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

[Unlearning] Let the act become the destination…

let act be the destination

Earlier in the year I read Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog: A memoir by the Creator of Nike’… it could not have been better timing for me… it inspired me to live the journey, to continue to believe in my dreams (and of-course believe in me!).

I have always been running after goals – one goal to the next and the next! In the rush to reach the destination, I have sometimes been irritated and often frustrated when faced with a challenge or just about any event that delays the goal – not just missing out on countless opportunities to explore but more simply the pure joy of doing what I started to…

Phil Knight’s journey that led to Nike may not be as well known as Steve Jobs story of Apple but it’s no less an inspiration… Shy, introvert, often insecure – Phil is far off from the bold dashing image of a typical entrepreneur… giving hope to many of us…

The memoir is surprisingly honest… he is so humble… underplays the successes and presents many choices to be accidental – be it the design of the iconic swoosh logo, coining of the name Nike (inspired from the Greek goddess Athena Nike thought to be the bringer of ‘nike’ or victory) or introduction of the innovative air technology…

An amazing story, it’s an honest reminder of what it takes to live your dream… to build a successful business – contrary to perceptions it’s no glamorous journey but years of endless struggles, terrifying risks, crushing setbacks and heartbreaking sacrifices… rewards are few and far from guaranteed… you realise the harsh reality that often just hard work and determination is not enough and luck may decide the outcome… you often wonder why you are doing it but despite all handicaps you still do (!) and its the act that becomes the destination… and it’s only faith – faith in yourself and faith in faith – that in the end matters!

For us who have grown up loving and admiring Nike, it is unimaginable to believe that a major part of the journey saw them living with the daily fear of failure… it makes it all the more admirable that they emerged into such a strong brand despite the humble beginnings and decades of struggles… but it’s a real example of the power of shared dreams… and what can be achieved if you keep going… if you don’t give up… if you live every moment of the journey fully… it’s a reminder to us all to live our dream, for the alternative is ‘not-to-live’!

This article is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.